It appears the 2020 Olympics Games won’t go forward as scheduled.
On Monday, International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound told USA Today that the committee has decided to postpone the summer games due to the ongoing global pandemic with the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know,” Pound told the newspaper. While the IOC has not officially made an announcement yet, Pound said that the postponement would be the first portion of an ongoing plan to postpone the games, possibly to 2021.
The plan will be announced in stages, Pound said, due to the “immense” effort that it will take to shift the timetable for the 2020 Games.
The apparent postponement comes as COVID-19 has infected over 362,000 people worldwide, according to a tracker provided by Johns Hopkins University.
While this would be the first time that the Olympics have been postponed, the Games have been canceled before. In 1916, due to the outbreak of World War I, the Games were not held in Berlin. In 1940, as well as 1944, the Games were canceled due to World War II with Tokyo, also the site of the 2020 Olympics, and London being unable to host the Games.
The IOC’s imminent decision on the 2020 Olympics would be the most recent sporting event to be canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus. In the U.S., the NBA, NHL and MLS have suspended the remainder of their seasons, the MLB suspended the remainder of Spring Training and have postponed the date of Opening Day, the XFL canceled the remainder of its season and college athletics have canceled all of their remaining events including the men’s and women’s basketball NCAA March Madness Tournament.
In addition to the cancellation and postponement of sporting events, countries like Italy and China were placed on a countrywide lockdown and in the U.S. almost every state has banned public gatherings of more than 50 people, all in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
Prior to a decision to postpone the 2020 Games, the IOC was urged to consider postponement or cancellation by many prominent names in the world of Olympic sports.
On Sunday, both Australia and Canada both announced that teams from the two countries would not participate in the 2020 Olympics over concerns about COVID-19. On March 20, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey, penned a letter to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic CEO Sarah Hirshland, calling for the Games to be postponed for one year.
“Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all,” Hinchey wrote in his letter, which was obtained by USA Today. “It is with the burden of these serious concerns that we respectfully request that the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee advocate for the postponement of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 for one year.”
While many were adamant about canceling or postponing the Games, many others in Japan felt that they should go on despite COVID-19. On March 13, Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said that the Games will “absolutely not” be postponed or canceled.
“The IOC and the organizing committee are not considering cancellation or postponement – absolutely not at all,” Hashimoto said.
In addition to Hashimoto’s comments, Yoshiro Mori, head of the Olympic’s organizing committee and a spokesman for the IOC, Mark Adams, made similar remarks about the games going on despite to outbreak of the virus.
“It is our basic stance that we press ahead with preparation for a safe and secure Olympics,” Mori told reporters during a press conference on March 11. “Therefore, we are not at all thinking about changing courses or plans.”
“The conclusion from us is that the Games are going ahead. The Games will go ahead, we’re confident they will go ahead, and we’re confident they will start on the 24th of July,” Adams said during a press conference.
The decision to postpone the games would have a wide-ranging effect, impacting 11,000 Olympic and 4,400 Paralympic athletes, staff members, sponsorships, and thousands of fans that planned on attending.
The novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China but has continued to spread across the globe, impacting almost every aspect of human life. According to the tracker, there are at least 1,101 confirmed coronavirus cases in Japan as well as 41 deaths.
Correction: The original headline of this article was amended to clarify that the postponement of the 2020 games was announced by a member of the International Olympic Committee, but has not been officially declared by the IOC.
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